Reorganization of the Ashland Senior Center moved forward Monday with unanimous approval by the Parks and Recreation Commission of recommendations to separate the program into its own division, establish a new program description and adopt a conceptual job description for a new manager.

The three recommendations came early, as an ad hoc committee still has more meetings to conduct, but action was taken in hopes of having a new manager for the center by July 1, ad hoc committee chair Jackie Bachman said.

“As (the committee) began this evaluation process, we realized that there were some recommendations that needed to be approved quickly,” Bachman said, referring to the need for a new program description and a new manager, among other priorities.

The new description defines specific missions — including referral services, benefits assistance and recreational activities — that the center will try to accomplish and maintain, Bachman said. The program will require the center to stand as its own division in Parks and Recreation and a “higher level of leadership,” she said, adding that the recommendations also took in consideration of community members’ feedback.

Parks Director Michael Black said at the meeting that the reorganization of the Senior Center will be result of “immense” work and he expects to see an increase in operational costs, with a potential 10 percent bump in salary for the manager position.

“This is not something that we have nailed down yet,” Black said. “But obviously, an enhanced program will need an enhanced budget.”

He said the commission is adopting a conceptual description. Human resources and city attorney will process the description before the recruitment could begin, Black said.

The conceptual job description has a long list of duties, including managing the center, developing a long term strategic plan, partnering with governmental and nonprofit agencies, and recruiting, training and supervising staff at the center.

“These responsibilities require an exceptional leader with a vision,” Bachman said.

Commissioner Rick Landt asked staff to clarify that advisory board in the job description is an entity that reports directly to the commission, saying misleading information has been problematic in the past. Black said staff could work out the bylaws before finalizing the description.

The ad hoc committee will continue to work until March on recommendations on improving the Senior Center in areas including community connections, governance, evaluation and written records and reports, Bachman said.

The committee also waits for the results from a community survey, which closes on Jan. 26, to complete their list. Black said the city has collected more than 670 responses so far.

Ashland resident Sandra Sawyer urged the commission to postpone the vote until the public could fully study the recommendations.

“The committee hasn’t completed its work, by the time it does complete its work, thing may change dramatically,” Sawyer said, referring to the potential lawsuit from the former manager who claimed in an tort claim notice she was wrongfully dismissed in August. “There should be no hurry to rush in costly and dynamically changes.”

Ashland resident Avram Chetron echoed Sawyer’s sentiment.

“This seems like a familiar MO (method of operation) for the commission — you make decisions, then you pretend to listen to the community after the fact,” Chetron said as he pointed out the committee’s survey, which collects the community’s feedback, is not completed.

Chetron also criticized the survey and its questions for lacking in seeking for input for social services. He also pointed out the survey shouldn’t have been distributed to a Osher Lifelong Learning Institute member email list, as many of the recipients do not live in Ashland.

Members of the group Ashland Support Our Seniors have scrutinized the commission since August after the commissioners voted in August to dismiss the former center’s manager, Chris Dodson. The group launched a recall campaign of three commissioners in November.

Bachman explained that the job description was written based on the committee members’ expertise and national standards, while the survey will be used to identify areas in the program that need improvement.

With Black supporting the ad hoc committee recommendations, the commission unanimously approved all three changes.

Further information about the potential increasing costs for the Senior Center will be presented at the ad hoc committee meeting on Feb. 12, as the committee wraps up work on its list of recommendation.

The ad hoc committee meets at 3:15 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the Council Chamber, 1175 E. Main St. The commission will consider the committee’s recommendations in March.

— Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.